The Best Bombay Duck in Mumbai: Take A Look
Image Credit: Bombay Duck | Image Credit: Shutterstock

Don’t go by the name "Bombay Duck," because this term is used for "bombil," a type of lizard fish relished in the state of Maharashtra. There are a number of different legends and theories surrounding the origin of the name "Bombay duck." One explanation claims that the lizardfish were named after the Bombay Dak, a train that smelled bad because of the drying of lizardfish.

Contrary to what the name implies, the Bombay Duck is a type of fish whose scientific name is Harpadonnehereus and is popularly called Bombil in India. In British India, Bombay Duck was preserved in salt and eaten; nowadays, it is a staple diet for the less privileged who live near the coast of Southeast Asia and western India.

Even the foul odor of the Bombay Duck did not deter the English, and the stinky, crumbly, dry fish was so popular among them that more than 13 tons of it were shipped into the country until 1997.

The only place you can find Bombil is in Mumbai's waters. It is said that when Lord Rama built a bridge to Lanka, every marine creature helped out except the bombil, and that’s why it was thrown off the Mumbai coast! Bombay Duck’s taste appeals to so many people because it has an unmistakable taste that reminds one of the sea in every bite. It has a salty, fishy taste and a crumbly texture.

Raw Bombay Duck, cleaned, costs around Rs. 100 per kg or less, if purchased from the local markets in Mumbai. But if you buy it from a reliable e-commerce website, then it can go up to Rs 300 per kg.

Where can I get Bombay Duck?

This fish is sold in all the common fish markets in Mumbai all through the year. It is common to see rows of bombil hanging on racks, drying in the sun, at various beaches spread across Mumbai. Bombil is affordable in comparison to other fish types and is thus eaten every day with rice and dal by fish lovers in the city.

Different ways of preparing Bombil

With the variety of people living in Mumbai, there are a variety of preparations for Bombay Duck. The Parsis are said to love bombil and prefer to cover fresh Bombay Duck in semolina and deep-fry it till it’s golden brown and juicy inside.

Some restaurants in Mumbai experiment with the bombil and remove all the juice from it until it is bone dry for a more crumbly texture. It can be relished in a thali along with sol kadi, rassa, cawas, and chapatis. People also make a dry bombil chilly fry or turn it into a chutney or pickle.

Best Bombay Duck Restaurants in Mumbai

Gomantak Restaurant, Dadar West

You must visit Gomantak Boarding House at Dadar West to try Bombay Duck, including the AC and non-AC sections. You'll enjoy the crispy lizardfish here because the Bombay duck was coated in semolina and then deep-fried. It is buttery and silky soft on the inside and has an amazing flavor and texture. What makes the flavor really pop is eating the fried Bombay duck along with rice and some of the curry sauce provided. The flavors of the curries are not overpowering, nor are they greasy; they simply have fantastic flavors.

Chef’s recommendation: Bombil thali, Surmai thali, and Bombil fry.

Location: Dadar West.

Price: Rs. 800 for two.

Gajalee restaurant: Vile Parle

The food quality, the courtesy of the staff, and the cleanliness are all excellent here. Their Bombil Fry, Tandoori Crab, and Neer Dosa with Basa Koshimbir are must-haves when visiting here. You will like the ambiance and décor of this restaurant and be amazed by the expertise of the chef in preparing the Bombil curry with some eye-catching presentation.

Chef’s recommendation: Bombil fry, clam, squid, and Surmai curry.

Location: Vile Parle.

Price: Rs. 1000 for two.

Jai Hind Lunch Home-Bandra West

Jai Hind is an amazing seafood restaurant with a sleek decor that coordinates well with all those who are passionate about their food. They have outlets across Mumbai. Once here, you should try their pomfrets, shrimp, and sol kadhi. It's one of its kind and seasonal, as Bombay ducks are. You must try their signature dish, Kardi, which is crispy bombil stuffed with tiny prawns. Try their Tandoori Crab and Zinga (prawn) biryani as well.

Chef's picks: Kardi, prawns masala, and pomfret raicheado.

Location: Bandra West

Price: Rs. 1500.